FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama, Mandela and Leonard Peltier

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

Barack Obama has taken his two daughters on a dramatic visit to the Robben Island cell once occupied by Nelson Mandela.

Let’s hope he takes them next to the one now occupied by Leonard Peltier.

Mandela was famously held by the apartheid South African government for 27 years. He became a global symbol, then president of his nation.

Mandela was charged, among other things, with attempting to overthrow a government, which he admitted.

For 37 years, Peltier has consistently denied the charges against him, which arose from a native American resistance action at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

His bitterly contested 1977 conviction in the killing of two FBI agents came in Fargo. Peltier has since been held under extremely harsh circumstances in a variety of US prisons. He has been denied a wide range of basic rights, been severely beaten, and can’t get much-needed medical care. Now in his late sixties, Leonard’s health has dangerously deteriorated.

As an indigenous activist, Peltier has been deemed a political prisoner by Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations.

Over the decades, a mountain of evidence has surfaced to back his case. His “trial” was a travesty of injustice. At least one of the judges who once denied his appeals for freedom has reversed his stance.

As president, Bill Clinton was thoroughly briefed on Leonard’s case. To his everlasting shame, he pardoned the financier Marc Rich (who has just died) but failed even to insure Leonard a fair trial. The government admits that for “national security” reasons it continues to hide large volumes of evidence from public scrutiny. (See Jeffrey St. Clair’s The Clintons and the Rich Women for a thorough account of the Rich pardon.)

Leonard’s continued incarceration is a slap at the native community, and all those who believe in due process of law. His presence over the decades has been distinguished by a legendary dignity and grace. Among the many writings and films he’s inspired, Peter Matthiessen’s IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE remains the mainstay tribute to a remarkably steadfast spirit.

President Obama’s silence on Leonard’s case casts a long shadow over his visit to Robben Island. Amidst his many tributes to Nelson Mandela, Obama seems to have overlooked—we hope temporarily—that Mandela himself has asked that Peltier be given justice.

So have the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Parliaments of Europe, Italy and Belgium, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and many more. Before he passed away three years ago, Judge Gerald W. Heaney of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his previous opinion and joined those asking that Peltier be freed.

Most who support Peltier want his immediate release. Some ask that at very least he finally be granted a fair trial, with all the evidence made public. If the government insists on continuing to hold him in the interim, they ask he at least be moved near his Anishnabe and Dakota/Lakota people.

Leonard Peltier has been in jail so long he has grandchildren and great-grandchildren he has never seen.

Obama has said “the world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.” He was, he said, “humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.”

It’s time for the President to show similar courage in the case of Leonard Peltier.

Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many others have already demanded no less.

You can write Leonard Peltier directly at #89637-132, USP Coleman 1, US Penitentiary, PO Box 1033, Coleman, FL 33521.

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail